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Iraqi Workers & Occupation (Iraqi Freedom Congress Interview)

Von: Dan Clore (clore@columbia-center.org) [Profil]
Datum: 03.06.2010 22:08
Message-ID: <86qgfaFadbU2@mid.individual.net>
Newsgroup: alt.anarchy.rules alt.society.liberalism alt.society.labor-unionssoc.culture.israel soc.culture.iraq talk.politics.mideast
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

The original videos and transcripts are available here:

Top: http://tinyurl.com/244vzef
Part 1: http://tinyurl.com/3a7j3eg
Part 2: http://tinyurl.com/3438t54
Part 3: http://tinyurl.com/2dptpdd
Part 4: http://tinyurl.com/32ym3wp


May 21, 2010
Iraqi workers and the occupation

Amjad Ali: All the leading parties in Iraq represent factions of the

Amjad Ali is the International Representative of the Iraqi Freedom
Congress & General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq

Amjad Ali Interview (Part 1 of 4)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm
Paul Jay in Toronto. And in the days following the Iraqi elections, the
fight over who will be prime minister continues. Now joining us to help
us understand the struggle further his Amjad Ali. He's the international
representative for the Iraqi Freedom Congress. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: And you also represent a coalition of Iraqi unions abroad as well.

ALI: That's right.

JAY: So tell us about the Iraqi Freedom Congress, first of all. What is
it and how did it come into being?

ALI: Iraq Freedom Congress is an organization, it's an umbrella
organization, formed in 2005 because of the issues in Iraq. The
religious groups and religious parties and nationalist parties were
fighting over power, who wanted to divide people according to their
national or ethnic background or religious background. We decided in
Iraq Freedom Congress to establish an organization, an umbrella
organization that bring people together to be another part of the
society that denounce all ethnic divisions and religious divisions.

JAY: It's nonsectarian? It's Shia, it's Kurdish, it's Sunni?

ALI: It's nonsectarian. We have everyone involved into Iraq Freedom
Congress—Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, [inaudible] These are the
minority religions there. We do have Shiites, Sunnis, we have Kurds, we
have Arabs, we have Turks, and all these [inaudible]

JAY: And what are some of the organizations that are members?

ALI: We do have the General Federation of Worker Councils. This is a
major part of the backbone of it. We have the—.

JAY: Which involves which unions?

ALI: Unions of rail workers, part of oil workers, part of electricity
workers, construction workers, teacher unions, all these people, they
are involved into Iraq Freedom Congress.

JAY: And roughly the numbers of the Freedom Congress, total numbers of
people involved.

ALI: We don't have a fixed or an exact number, but it goes from 50,0000
to 60,000 members.

JAY: So in the recent elections, what did the Freedom Congress think of
the elections, and what does the Freedom Congress think of the results?

ALI: We have issued our statement prior to the election, and we said
this election is not going to bring anyone else but the same people who
are in power today. They are militias, or they still have their own
militia. The Kurds do have their own militias. The Dawa party have one,
which is the government. And the Islamic Supreme Council, they do have
their own militias, or they say [inaudible]

JAY: People have often said the government's militia includes the U.S. army.

ALI: This is part of it. And we do have, like, a lot of special security
forces there who are coming from Blackwater and whatnot. So these are
part—each one has his own armed groups. And we said right in the
beginning or right—prior to that election we said the same people who
are now in power, they are going to be back in power. And that's why we
saw, like, the decline of the number of voters who cast a ballot from
the first one. That was 68 percent, as they said, back then in 2005, but
today they say almost 50 percent. But even to certain areas it has not
reached to that number, actually, and some ballots there were even zero
percent participants in that election.

JAY: Now, there also were some participants who didn't know they had
participated. What's your story?

ALI: I've been living here in Canada since '95. And prior to the
election, two months prior to the election, I called my brother, who
lives in Kirkuk, and he told me that he received my election card,
which—this is the card, you bring it to the—when you cast a ballot, you
bring it to the monitors, and, you know, you vote. And I said, well, how
did they find my name? It's been 15 years, or almost 15 years. And he
said, well, I got your card, and anyone can vote for you. And I said—and
instead of me. And I said, well, this is crazy. He said, well, there's a
lot—a lot of cards were distributed to those people who are not here.
And it happened. It happened. They tick off your name.

JAY: So it raises the participant level, but also means you can have
some fraud because people can use those cards any way they please.

ALI: Absolutely. I have my sister-in-law. She's one of the monitors in
Baghdad, and particularly in Adhamiyah district, which is a
Sunni-dominated district. And she was telling me she had those people
who represent a number of factions participate in that election, and she
said they were ticking off the names even if they were not there. They
are putting, like, fake names there. If you are not there, they tick off
your name and they put you as voted to this faction or that faction.

JAY: Now, Maliki's been accusing his opponents of doing this, but is
there any reason to think they did it more than he did?

ALI: You know what? They're all part of this game. Maliki himself, prior
to election results, that was interesting when he said, well, there are
some frauds, but it will not—or he doesn't think, he didn't think back
then it would affect the election result. This is what he said exactly.

JAY: 'Cause he thought he was going to win.

ALI: Yeah, exactly. But after the election, he decided, no, this
election is a fraud, and he has to do a recount, a hand recount.

JAY: Just for people, in case, who haven't followed it, Maliki actually
lost to his opposition by—what? Three or four seats, I think.

ALI: Actually, Allawi himself got 91 seats, and he himself got 89 seats,
and they decided [inaudible] recount. The recount started Monday, last
Monday. And right after they were started, they said, well, there is an
irregularity there, and the reason why, because they had to match the
names with the list.

JAY: Now, one of the most controversial things that happened before the
election—and it's been happening afterwards—is this attack on candidates
that had something to do with the Ba'ath party in the past, Saddam's
party. I believe a couple or two, or a few, at least, who were actually
elected are now—they're trying to disqualify, and there were many
candidates they wouldn't let run. What's the attitude of the Freedom
Congress towards this?

ALI: You know what? We always say that those who committed crimes must
be prosecuted. There is no way around that. But in order to form a
government, in order to form a secular, non-ethnic government, you need
all these factions to participate. But these factions must not
discriminate against others, must not have committed any crime. And we
don't mind if Ba'athist, non-Ba'athists, if they want to come with a
real intention to, or a sincere intention to form a society that free of
discrimination, free of racism, free of killings and crimes and
corruption and all these things. So Iraq Freedom Congress does not
discriminate against those. There are former Ba'athists—most of the
Iraqis were—must have had to be Ba'athist. I am one of the people who,
when I was in university back in 1984 and I was in the College of
Education, in order to finish my college I had to be a Ba'ath member.
There is no way around it. You are not—if you don't want to be a Ba'ath
member, okay, you have to leave the college. And there is—if you leave
college, there is another way you have to go: you have to be in the
army. Back then, between '80 and '88 we had a war in Iraq, between Iraq
and Iran. So if I had to leave the college back then, I had to go to
army and I could have been killed. That was possible. One million
casualties were in that war. So I am one example in millions of examples
back in the '80s.

JAY: Maliki knows that by going after these candidates it helps
facilitate and create the conditions for more conflict with the Sunnis,
and potentially, you know, the grounds for a kind of civil war. So what
is Maliki's objective here?

ALI: Well, here the thing is, when we talk about Maliki and if he cares
about the election, if he doesn't care about the people, if he cares
about what—the entire government, those people who are in power today,
they don't really care about people. We've seen that. We've seen that
since 2003. We've seen that in this kind of sectarian war in 2005. They
did not care about people. Thousands and hundreds of thousands were
killed, were displaced, were kidnapped. The government back then did not
do anything about it, did not even move one step towards reconciliation.
That wasn't the—the attitude of the government, we know, in Iraq, that
these are not pro-people, that each one has his own agenda, and that's
why they're—.

JAY: Well, there's a lot at stake. The thinking is Iraq has as much oil
as Saudi Arabia, so the leaders of these factions have a lot to fight
over. So in the next segment of our interview, let's talk about what is
the threat of civil war in Iraq. Please join us for this continuation of
our series of interviews on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are
typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their
complete accuracy.


May 22, 2010
Iraqi workers and occupation Pt. 2

Amjad Ali: Leaders of factions on the verge of civil war but the people
will not participate


Amjad Ali is the International Representative of the Iraqi Freedom
Congress & General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq

Amjad Ali Interview (Part 2 of 4)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network.
I'm Paul Jay in Toronto. And the struggle in Iraq continues over who's
going to be the next prime minister. Joining us again now to help us
understand this further is Amjad Ali. He's the international
representative for the Iraqi Freedom Congress. Thanks for joining us.

ALI: Thank you.

JAY: Iraq has enormous oil reserves. The leaders of all these various
ethnic factions are sections of the Iraqi elite who are fighting over
who's going to divide up this enormous wealth. There's a lot to fight
over, and it has been very violent in the last few years. What are the
possibilities—or how serious is the threat of civil war in Iraq?

ALI: Civil war is always on the verge. Iraqi people are always on the
verge—not the people, actually; those factions. As I mentioned earlier,
the issue of armed groups, it's still there. Each faction has its own
armed group and wants to get to a point that they cannot resolve their
problem, their disputes, they resort to weapons, they resort to killing
each other. And it happened just prior to the election—a number of
candidates were assassinated in Mosul. It happened in Baghdad prior to
the election, when the government security forces went to Adhamiyah
district, which is a Sunni-dominated area. They arrested a number of
people there for no apparent reason. They were jailed, and they were
released after the election. The election result right now, nobody got
the majority. Nobody can form a government by himself. They are in the
face of each other. Just yesterday there was a meeting between the
Islamic Supreme Council group or faction with [Ayad] Allawi faction,
Allawi who had 91 seats, who had the highest number of seats in the
Parliament today. He said, I must—and this is what—I'm quoting—he said,
I must form the government because I do have the highest seats in the
Parliament. The other faction, which is the Islamic Supreme Council, who
formed another faction with al-Maliki, they are trying to be a mediator
as to who's going to form what and what sort of government it's going to
be, who's going to be the prime minister. There are a number of
ministries or posts they are going to fight over, just like happened in
2005. The Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, they call it,
the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Finance, these are the ministries
that there will be major issues among these factions.

JAY: It's often said in the American press that it's the American
troops—and the U.S. says this quite officially as well, that they think
it's the U.S. troops that are preventing this civil war from breaking
out. So to what extent is that true? And if in fact the U.S. does leave
at the end of 2011, is that actually going to create the conditions for
the beginnings of this kind of conflict?

ALI: Well, actually, no, that is not true. The American troops were in
Iraq since 2003, and we saw a version of sectarian conflict and of kind
of civil war in Iraq. The American troops did not participate, did not
prevent that. They were just watching the whole issue. They wanted to
know—this is what we think they wanted to know—who's going to win in the
end. They did not have a serious intervention as to be a mediator to
solve this conflict. They never did that. And what happened, who settled
that, and this is what we strongly believe who settled that, is the
people themselves did not want to be part of the civil war. They did not
want to be part of the killing and kidnapping. It is right that we saw a
lot of people were displaced from their neighbourhood to somewhere else.

JAY: Millions of people.

ALI: Yeah, millions of people. But when it comes to if they were helping
each other, yes, they still help each other.

JAY: Well, how much is that still the fact, then? If these elites with
their militias want to have a fight to see who's going to control the
state, can they get the people to participate?

ALI: They tried, hardly. I think they failed miserably. They could not
get the people involved into that killing, and it happened. We had
al-Sadr militia. We had al-Maliki's militia. He had his own militia.
Islamic Supreme Council. Tariq al-Hashimi, he's the vice president of
Iraq; he had his own militia. They were fighting each other. They tried
to bring the people on board of that civil war. People did not want to

JAY: The Kurdish leader Barzani, who did fairly well in these elections
and became, I think, the clear-cut leader of the Kurdish section,
anyway, he says the only way to avoid an all-out civil war is to have a
federated Iraq. What does the Freedom Congress that you represent, what
do you think of this idea of a federated Iraq?

ALI: We believe that the federated Iraq is not going to be like Canada,
as based on, like, a geographical area. What happened is they want to
divide Iraq based on ethnic background and—.

JAY: So it's more like a Lebanese type of situation.

ALI: Exactly. And it never worked out. The Lebanese had this issue since
1943, when they formed a government. They formed areas, like, this is
Shiites', this is Sunnis', this is Muslims', this is Christians', and
whatnot. It never worked out.

JAY: So you institutionalize the sectarian differences.

ALI: Exactly. Well, this—they tried to do this in Iraq. It will never be
successful, because once you divide people based on their ethnic
bakground or religious background, you will always have tensions. And
we've seen that. We've seen Yugoslavia, we've seen Lebanon, and whatnot.

JAY: Well, is part of this—and you can see this in Lebanon, too, for
people watching our series on Lebanon—a lot of this is that they don't
want the society divided based on workers or class or economic
interests. They'd far rather have it divided based on these religious
and ethnic divisions. And does that play itself out in Iraq?

ALI: No. As I said, Iraq—.

JAY: No, I mean that the elites prefer the ethnic division.

ALI: Absolutely the elites prefer. And the Islamic Supreme Council had
been calling for a Shiite federal—like, a southern federal region for
the Shiites. And the Kurds wants that in the north. The Arabs
themselves, they don't want that to be, because they think this is the
beginning of dividing Iraq into three separate geographic areas. They
think that the Kurds will form their own state, the Shiite will join
Iran, and Iraq will be smaller than before.

JAY: And what do the Americans seem to want? I mean, Joe Biden was
always a big proponent of this federated [inaudible]

ALI: That's right. Joe Biden had—he was the architect of that federalism
in Iraq and the Shiite, Sunni, Kurds. But at this point what do the
Americans want? They just want to pull out with less loss in Iraq. They
have lost a lot, and they did not accomplish what they went for. They
did not find the WMD. All these reasons they went for or pretexts they
went for, they could not find it. Now Iraq is just a mess, as worse than
before. They think that there is no war in Iraq and it's stable. It is
not stable.

JAY: Well, the troops maybe are going to leave, but the IMF and the
World Bank are on their way in. So in the next segment of our interview,
let's talk about the next phase of relations between United States and
Iraq, which has a lot to do with the IMF and the World Bank. Please join
us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are
typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their
complete accuracy.


[No transcript available for Part 3.]


May 28, 2010
Iraqi workers and occupation Pt. 4

Amjad Ali: The Iraqi Freedom Congress wants to expel US forces and
dismantle US created institutions


Amjad Ali is the International Representative of the Iraqi Freedom
Congress & General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq

Amjad Ali Interview (Part 4 of 4)

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network.
I'm Paul Jay in Toronto. Joining us again is Amjad Ali. We're discussing
the situation in Iraq. And he's a representative of the Iraqi Freedom
Congress (IFC). Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So let's talk a little bit about the plan or objectives of the
Iraqi Freedom Congress. And I'm going to read just a little bit from
your statement. So the aims of the Iraqi Freedom Congress are, number
one, "End the occupation of Iraq—the US forces must leave Iraq
immediately; end the interference of the Islamic currents from people's
lives; guarantee the right of the Iraqi people to make an informed and
free decision on the future of their political system"; and "restore
civil life to Iraq." And they go on to say, "The immediate goal of the
IFC is to seize power and establish a provisional secular and non-ethnic
government," which includes again getting the US forces out right away,
dissolving all the political, economic, military, and the military
institutions set up by the US in order to control Iraq militarily,
politically, economically. That's a pretty big agenda. I mean, you're
talking about dismantling the current government, essentially, and
seizing power, which means you don't think these elections—you didn't
run in the current election. So how do you achieve all of this?

ALI: When we presented our manifesto in 2005—that was when we presented
back then—they said, well, this is a very hard agenda; you cannot do
this to the Islamic currents; you cannot do to the US-established
institutions. Right now, after five years of—or seven years of that
occupation, people tend to realize that what we're saying is absolutely
what they want. They want the Islamic currents or the religious currents
to be off their life; they don't want them to be imposing their agendas
on the people.

JAY: But there's clearly a lot of people voted for religious parties in
the last election, I mean, millions of people, and they're able to mount
demonstrations and marches with millions of people in the streets. So
you can't say there aren't people that don't support them.

ALI: The result, or the [participation] of this current—the recent
election was not up to the same as in 2005 what happened. They said 50
percent. It is less than 50 percent. We know for sure that it's not—it's
not—it's less than 50 percent.

JAY: But still there's a significant section of Iraqi society that
supports the religious parties.

ALI: It is significant, but [inaudible] most of the people who voted for
Allawi, for himself, is just because he said, "Well, I'm not a
religious; I'm a secular."

JAY: That's right, and he actually won the most votes.

ALI: Exactly, and that's why they got all these votes. So we are—again,
we are relying on that 50 percent who did not participate in that
election, and we heavily rely on them. And part of them, like a huge
segment of them, these are the workers who can do most of the work. And
what we're talking when we talk about the American interventions in
Iraq, Iraq today, they do have huge resentments [towards] the American
presence there in any type of presence, militarily or—.

JAY: But you want the US troops, like, out tomorrow, or do you want them
to stick to the timetable?

ALI: No, actually. We want it today, not even tomorrow. We know this is
for a fact that the resentment is there. The resentment is not only
towards the US presence, but actually towards the Iranian presence there
and Iranian interference, towards the Syrian interference, towards the
Saudi [interference]. Right now all these countries who are surrounding
Iraq, they are participating one way or another into Iraqis' business.
They are interfering there. They want to establish something there that
serves their interests. And we want all these countries to be out of
Iraq with their agendas.

JAY: You say you want to disarm the armed paramilitary groups.

ALI: Yeah, this is what we believe in. And the paramilitary, as we
mentioned, it's—we call a militia there in Iraq—we want to disarm them,
we want to stop them from interfering into the ordinary life of peoples.
And this is—it's been happening for, like, a few years now. And they
established their own district [inaudible] in their own district they
imposed their own law. And it happened with the al-Sadr militia, with
the Islamic Supreme Councils, with the Islamic militias that belong to
Tariq al-Hashemi. These people, they have their own districts, they
impose their own law, and they don't care about the government law,
which is—it's pathetic anyways. But they impose their own law into those
districts. We want those paramilitary to be dismantled and people
themself to come up and say, no, we don't want you; we are going to

JAY: You say you want to confiscate and repossess all the properties in
the states belonging to religious foundations and utilize them to meet
social, recreational, and political needs of the people. So what are you
talking about in terms of these religious foundations?

ALI: For example, there is a foundation today—it's called the Shahid
el-Mehrab Foundation. Shahid el-Mehrab Foundation, this is belongs to
Islamic Supreme Council, which is al-Hakim, Ammar al-Hakim—he's the
president of that. And this foundation owes millions, billions of
dollars worth of assets and valuables. They are in Iraq. And, in fact,
they are not spending it on the housing or employment or the civil
services; they are just giving this money or these are salaries for
their own militias who serve their interests. And this is one
foundation. There are so many foundation, religious foundations. They
teach people how to march in certain religious celebrations. Millions
and millions of dollars were spent on these. But people actually needs
housing, need money to work, need employment, all these things that—this
is what we're trying to do.

JAY: Well, let me read just a couple of other things: facilitate the
provision of empowering people to defend their freedom and expel and
suppress any aggression and assault directed against their rights and
freedom; complete separation of religion from state and education;
revoke all religiously derived laws and legislations; declare freedom of
religion and atheism; full and unconditional freedom of expression of
belief, press, assembly, organization and the right to demonstrate. And
we'll put the rest of the program up on the website below the player so
people can see it includes freedom for all political prisoners,
abolition of the death penalty. You're also in favor of a referendum for
the whole of Kurdistan to decide if they want to stay in Iraq or not. So
it's a very broad-based, some people would call secular democratic
agenda. Do you achieve this through elections? I mean, how do you see
this coming to be? You now represent unions, you say about 50-60,000
people. If they're active, that's actually quite a few people if they're

ALI: Sure. Oh, yeah.

JAY: But you didn't participate in these elections. So how do you get
there from here?

ALI: In our statement, the last statement prior to the election, we
said, well, what we want right now is a provisional government;
dismantle or dissolve this current government.

JAY: Okay, but you're not getting it because you say that.

ALI: We are working towards that. We are not sitting and waiting for the
election to bring us up there to the government. We are working. We are
working among people, among ordinary people; we are working among the
workers, the women, the students.

JAY: But do you imagine at some point you will have candidates in elections?

ALI: Well, nothing impossible. This is politics. And one day, for
example, al-Maliki, he was working as a sidewalk vendor in Syria, and
now he's a prime minister. So there is a huge difference in the, like,
shifting, the power-shifting. And this is what we can see in Iraq. It
depends on how much work we could do, how much we could achieve, how
much support we could get. Right now we do have a lot of support, moral
support. We don't have financial support, unfortunately, because our
agenda's totally different from what is they have in the government. We
don't have that financial support. But we do have moral support. We are
working towards people. We are establishing our own agenda in different
neighborhood right now. At some point in 2005, when in the sectarian war
in Iraq, what happened is we had our safety forces—we were able to
control our neighborhood. We did not let sectarian forces to come invade
our neighborhood and impose their agenda. We were able to protect Sunnis
from Shiite armed group. We were able to protect Shiite from Sunni armed
groups and whatnot. This is what we did, and we gained a lot of support
back then, and we're still working among people. As I mentioned, this is
an organization that wants to seize power. This is not just a few
demands that we are putting towards people and either you ratify it or
not. This is—if we want to be a part of this government or to be in
government one day, these are the things that we want to achieve for all
people. When we talk about religious, the secular, ending the
interference of religious, if you take a look at the Iraqi Constitution,
you'll find out that it is mainly a religious constitution. The rights
of Christians, the rights of ["savvy"], Yazidis, the rights of
the rights of atheists, it's not there. They are not considered. They
are considered like individuals, but they are not considered as human
being. And we want those people to have their rights in Iraq as human
beings in Iraq, just like in Europe and in North America. Even the gay
rights and that is not there. The people who are gay today in Iraq, they
get not only prosecuted [sic], actually; they are getting assassinated
in massive numbers. Nobody knows about them. The government does not
want to publish anything about them, because the government itself is a
sectarian religious government. They don't want to publicize anything
about it. So what we want to do, okay, this is Iraq, and these are human
beings who live in this particular geographic area. They need their
rights. They have the right to live as human beings.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.

ALI: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are
typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their
complete accuracy.


Dan Clore

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